Federal Laws on Groundwater Protection

The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 was originally designed to ensure the safety of drinking water supplies. It gave authority to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop primary and secondary standards for different contaminants. In 1986, the SDWA was amended to include wellhead protection. Each state was to develop a wellhead protection program for their state and submit it to the EPA for approval. It had to have these elements:

  • EPA LogoState and Local Agency Duties
  • Delineation of WHPAs
  • Source Identification
  • Management Approaches
  • Contingency Plans
  • New Wells

In 1996, the SDWA was amended again to expand wellhead protection to include protection of surface water that is used for drinking water. This new program was called the Source Water Protection Program.

Many other federal laws are responsible for helping to protect groundwater.

  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) - regulates the storage, transportation, treatment, and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes to prevent contaminants from leaching into groundwater.
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (Superfund) - authorizes the government to clean up contamination caused by chemical spills or hazardous waste that do or could pose threats to the environment(groundwater).
  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) - authorizes EPA to control the availability of pesticides that have the ability to leach into groundwater.
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) - authorizes EPA to control the manufacture, use, storage, distribution, or disposal of toxic chemicals that have the potential to leach into groundwater.
  • Clean Water Act (CWA) - authorizes development of surface water protection strategies and authorizes a number of programs to prevent water pollution from a variety of potential sources.